May 10, 2012, Chicago.... Last month the Youth Committee of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (the Alliance) released a short video that they hope will inspire young people and adults to get involved in making schools and communities safer places for all students, especially those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Their video, “Dear 40-Year-Old Me,” which was produced by a volunteer team of creative professionals from EPIC, has captured the attention of YouTube viewers across the world and can be viewed at:

As the young people in the video share such personal, raw anecdotes about their lives, a universal theme emerges: change is both possible and empowering. The stories trace how young people have transformed through their involvement with the Alliance, from feeling marginalized to being an integral part of policy changes at both a district and statewide level.

In the video the students face the camera and address themselves as though they are their 40-year-old selves recanting what their present day experience was like. “You went to a school that wasn't used to people like you, wasn't used to change, wasn’t used to people being different," while another states “you always felt like you were hiding something" while fighting back tears. And there’s a young man who recalls, “…Freshman year, after your stepdad beat the crap out of you, all your mom told you was, 'I know you're a faggot.'"

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance is currently partnering with Chicago Public Schools to draft and implement a model anti-bullying policy that protects students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Alliance too convenes the Prevent School Violence Illinois coalition which provides a vehicle for over 80 organizations to come together to transform schools across the state.

The video was made possible through volunteers from EPIC, an organization that empowers creative people to make social change happen in Chicago. “For our creative rallies—eight, intense, fun weeks of collaboration—we pair Chicago-based nonprofit clients with hand-picked volunteers from the advertising and design industries.” Erin Huizenga, EPIC Founder/Executive Director, states, “Our goal is to positively impact the lives of those each organization serves and are thrilled to be a part of the journey the young people impacted by the work of the Alliance are on.”